Senate GOP campaign arm to candidates after Alabama embryo ruling: 'Express support for IVF'

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WASHINGTON – The Senate Republican campaign arm is urging candidates to "clearly and concisely reject efforts by the government" to restrict in vitro fertilization in a memo sent out Friday morning.

The memo from National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Jason Thielman comes three days after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that frozen embryos used in IVF are children and have legal protections under the state's "personhood" laws.

The decision kicked off a frenzy among patients and doctors grappling with its implications for people attempting to conceive, often after years of struggling to have children or other complications in family planning. Democrats immediately began messaging on the ruling as further evidence of a GOP-led effort to restrict reproductive rights.

Republicans struggled to find a cohesive response immediately in the wake of the ruling, largely avoiding comment on the decision if possible.

The GOP has the upper hand in the race for control of the Senate this fall, with Democrats on defense in all the major swing states around the country. But the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn abortion protections sets up a complicated dance for conservative candidates grappling with voters reactions to its fall-out.

Thielman's memo cited overwhelming voter support for the fertility treatment, including among key conservative voting blocs. Around 78% of pro-life advocates, 83% of evangelical Christians and 86% of women support IVF, he noted.

The Alabama Supreme Court ruling "is fodder for Democrats hoping to manipulate the abortion issue for electoral gain," Thielman wrote. "There are zero Republican Senate candidates who support efforts to restrict access to fertility treatments."

The NRSC director urged candidates to "clearly state" their support for IVF, oppose restrictions on the service, and advocate for increasing access to such fertility treatments.

Shortly after the memo reached the campaigns, the party's Senate candidates came out with statements saying they would fight to protect the procedure if elected.

Arizona GOP candidate Kari Lake said IVF is "extremely important," Montana candidate Tim Sheehy said it is "a path for families to grow and thrive." Pennsylvania candidate Dave McCormick called it a "ray of hope" and Ohio's Bernie Moreno said it is a "vital tool for families."

Former President Donald Trump, the likely GOP nominee for president, also posted on Truth Social Friday calling upon the Alabama state legislature to "find an immediate solution" to protect IVF in the state.

"We want to make it easier for mothers and fathers to have babies, not harder," he wrote.

The Alabama ruling doesn't outlaw IVF in the state, but it seriously complicates the process. The University of Alabama at Birmingham paused infertility treatments at their facilities after the ruling and healthcare experts say it could open doctors up to criminal charges in the case of mishandling embryos or even in the case of a miscarriage.

IVF is responsible for around 100,000 babies born every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – around 2% of births. The Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 2020 that there are at least 600,000 frozen embryos in storage nationwide.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., delivered a seemingly contradictory response to the ruling at the Conservative Political Action Conference, saying he is "all for it" but adding "we need more kids." His office later clarified that he was not supporting medical facilities' decisions to cancel IVF procedures, though he supported the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

President Joe Biden's campaign has been aggressively seeking to blame Trump for putting fertility treatments like IVF at risk.

"What is happening in Alabama right now is only possible because Donald Trump’s Supreme Court justices overturned Roe v. Wade," Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said in a statement Thursday.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: After Alabama IVF ruling, Senate GOP campaign arm has message for candidates